[Louis] Zamperini was the "Torrance Tornado," the tough kid turned track star who set a national high school record for running the mile. In 1936, he was known as "The Zamp," the 18-year-old USC standout who ran at the Berlin Olympics, where his roommate was Jesse Owens. In 1943, he was Lt. Zamperini, a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator, who, along with 10 other crew members, fell off the map on a May 27 mission over the Pacific.
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent his parents a formal condolence note in 1944, he had no idea that Zamperini was still alive and living a nightmare in a Japanese prison camp. For 47 days, Zamperini had drifted on a life raft, fighting off sharks and starvation with two other crew members, one of whom died. Picked up by a Japanese patrol boat, the two survivors were beaten, tortured and humiliated for more than two years.